Bin Laden Co to build world's tallest skyscraper

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The Independent Online

Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has teamed up with the Bin Laden Group in a grandiose project to build the world's tallest tower in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, outdoing Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the current title holder.

The proposed skyscraper, the Kingdom Tower, will soar more than 1km into the sky and take five years to build. It is the latest in a long line of glitzy mega-projects in the oil-rich Gulf countries that are as much about national and personal prestige as they are about showcasing their economic clout.

The tower, which will include luxury apartments, offices and a shopping centre, is thought to be the brainchild of the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed, who is the nephew of King Abdullah.

The prince, one of the world's wealthiest men, said yesterday that his company, Kingdom Holding Co, had signed a $1.2bn deal with the Bin Laden Co, a Saudi construction firm owned by the family of the slain terror chief Osama bin Laden, to build the tower on the outskirts of Jeddah.

The tower, designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture, will, if completed, be the glimmering centrepiece of a $20bn new city that looks out over the Red Sea, as well as a prized trophy for its wealthy backers.

Currently, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, which was completed last year, is the highest building in the world at 828 metres, with its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, lagging some way behind at 509 metres. The eventual height of the Saudi tower is expected to soar substantially higher than 1,000 metres, but its backers are cagey about the exact scope.

In recent years, the Gulf states have embraced ever more grandiose and ambitious ventures such as man-made islands and luxury housing developments. Such "prestige projects" at times mask more serious underlying economic problems. Dubai unveiled the $1.5bn Burj Khalifa last January even as its financial and real-estate markets were crumbling. Just months before, it had been forced to borrow cash from the neighbouring Abu Dhabi to deal with its deepening debt problems.